MONDAY, OCT 26
An Australian woman strip-searched by authorities at a Qatari airport after a premature baby was found in a bathroom says she is considering legal action over the “terrifying” experience, newsagencies and the ABC report.
Two passengers from QR908 both told the ABC they had no idea what was happening to them when all women on the plane were asked to get off after a three-hour delay on October 2.
The two women wanted to remain anonymous and did not know each other before boarding the flight to Sydney.
It had been due to leave Hamad International Airport (HIA) at 8:30pm local time but was delayed for three hours after a premature baby was found in a bathroom at the terminal — a detail confused passengers said was not communicated to them.
One of the women said all adult females were removed from the plane by authorities and taken to two ambulances waiting outside the airport.
“No-one spoke English or told us what was happening. It was terrifying,” she said.
“There were 13 of us and we were all made to leave.
“A mother near me had left her sleeping children on the plane.
“There was an elderly woman who was vision impaired and she had to go too. I’m pretty sure she was searched.”
She said while she respected Qatar’s laws and culture, she was considering legal action.
“If the other 12 women came forward with a class action, I would definitely be part of that,” she said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the “grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events” had been referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
In a statement, HIA confirmed the infant was “safe” and being cared for in Qatar, and that medical professionals “expressed concern to officials about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing”.
The other female passenger who spoke to the ABC said she was with a group of about six women, who began panicking when they realised they were being taken outside the airport.
“When I got in there, and there was a lady with a mask on and then the authorities closed the ambulance behind me and locked it,” she said.
“They never explained anything.
“She told me to pull my pants down and that I needed to examine my vagina.
“I said ‘I’m not doing that’ and she did not explain anything to me. She just kept saying, ‘we need to see it we need to see it’.”
The woman said she tried to get out of the ambulance and the authorities on the other side opened the door.
“I jumped out and then ran over to the other girls. There was nowhere for me to run,” she said.
The woman said she took her clothes off and was inspected, and touched, by the female nurse.
“I was panicking. Everyone had gone white and was shaking,” she said.
“I was very scared at that point, I didn’t know what the possibilities were.”
British special forces stormed a Greek-operated oil tanker in the English Channel on Sunday to wrestle control of the vessel from seven stowaways who had threatened the crew in a suspected hijacking.
Troops from the Special Boat Service (SBS), a navy special forces unit whose headquarters was just a few kilometres away from the vessel on Sunday morning (local time) when the distress call was made, boarded the Nave Andromeda near the Isle of Wight off southern England.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised the armed forces to board the ship, “to safeguard life and secure a ship that was subject to suspected hijacking,” the defence ministry said.
“Armed forces have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained,” the ministry said.
“Initial reports confirm the crew are safe and well.”
“I commend the hard work of the armed forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship,” Mr Wallace said.
“In dark skies and worsening weather, we should all be grateful for our brave personnel.”
The defence ministry declined to confirm or deny the involvement of the SBS — in line with British government policy of not commenting on special forces operations.
Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has reportedly been moved from Iran’s notorious Qarchak prison to an unknown location, reports the ABC.
Friends of Dr Moore-Gilbert said contacts in Iran told them she had been taken somewhere else with all her belongings over the weekend.
Similar reports had been issued by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) in Iran.
Jessie Moritz, who is a friend of Dr Moore-Gilbert’s, said they were worried about what has happened to her.
“It is very concerning not to know where she is,” she told the ABC.
“We are probably not going to know for another couple of days which is going to be a stressful period of just waiting and hoping.”
Dr Moore-Gilbert, who was a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, was arrested in Tehran in September 2018.
She was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage, charges she and the Australian Government reject.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Australian Government was “seeking further information” about Dr Moore-Gilbert’s location.
Senator Payne also said Australia’s ambassador to Iran met with Dr Moore-Gilbert in Qarchak prison not long ago.
A group of friends and colleagues campaigning on Dr Moore-Gilbert’s behalf, FreeKylieMG, have issued a statement declaring that the Federal Government’s promises of action were sounding “increasingly empty”.
“If the reports are true, then an Australian citizen has gone missing within the Iranian prison system, despite the careful watch of ‘quiet diplomacy’,” they said in a statement.
The Australian Director of Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson said there are too many unknowns.
“One hopes that the move from that prison is good news but we don’t know where she has been moved to and we don’t know why,” Ms Pearson said.
“We know from her letters that she has suffered and endured quite a lot in prison.
“We know that the conditions with COVID are very bad in Iran.”
Iran is in the grip of its third coronavirus outbreak and Qarchak prison has battled to contain an outbreak among inmates and guards at the prison.
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.